The Baltimore Ravens announced Monday that they had signed linebacker Terrell Suggs to a four-year contract extension, one that figures to make him a member of the team for the rest of his professional playing career.
The move was a win-win for both the Ravens and Suggs, with the former needing to find salary cap room and the latter receiving significant job security in return for shaving down his yearly cap hit.
Initially, Suggs was set to take up $12.4 million in salary cap space. The four-year deal, worth $28.5 million total, includes $16 million in guaranteed money and lowers his 2014 cap hit to $7.8 million, according to Zrebiec, giving the Ravens a more manageable $16.5 million in cap space.
The NFL Network's Albert Breer breaks down the contract by year:
Suggs has been with the Ravens since 2003; that season, he was named the Associated Press' Defensive Rookie of the Year. He's a six-time Pro Bowler and was a first-team All Pro in 2011, the same year he won AP Defensive Player of the Year. He's missed just 11 games in his career, is the Ravens' franchise sack leader with 94.5 and has 27 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries and seven interceptions (with two touchdowns) to his name.
Still, the $12.4 million he was initially owed for the season was too much money. After missing half of the 2012 season with first a partially torn Achilles tendon and then time later on with a torn right bicep, he returned in 2013 at peak form. His 80 combined tackles tied his career high, and his 10 sacks led the team.
However productive he was in 2013, the fact that he's currently 31 years old (and turns 32 in October), combined with Baltimore's salary cap situation, meant he needed to take a reduced salary in exchange for being able to finish out his career with the Ravens.
|Terrell Suggs' Career in Baltimore|
To have kept Suggs at his initial cap hit would have been to sacrifice signing other necessary soon-to-be Ravens free agents like tight end Dennis Pitta, left tackle Eugene Monroe or middle linebacker Daryl Smith. The financial situation has been so tight that at the end of the 2013 season, there were serious considerations being made about releasing Suggs.
It's not that pass-rushers like Suggs are a dime-a-dozen, though his replacement could be found in this year's draft.
His leadership skills on a Ravens defense that saw many of its veterans released last offseason are invaluable. His knowledge of the team's defensive system also makes him important, as he can teach the young players just as much as the coaching staff about what it takes to play on that side of the ball in Baltimore.
And his best playing years don't appear to be behind him, though there may be fewer of them ahead.
Part of paying out contracts in the NFL has to do with expected future performance as much as it is informed by what that player has done in the past. It's fairer to assume that Suggs has fewer double-digit sack seasons left in him than more.
The list of players who have had 10 or more sacks in a season at 30 or more years of age is long; however, only six other 30-plus defenders (not including Suggs) had double-digit sacks in 2013. The odds are therefore greater that Suggs' game will decline from here. If it does, then the Ravens would look foolish for giving him the $12.4 million; if it improves, it would be a bonus to the team.
|30-Plus-Year-Old Defenders with 10-Plus Sacks in 2013|
|John Abraham||Arizona Cardinals||35||11.5|
|Calvin Pace||New York Jets||33||10.0|
|Robert Mathis||Indianapolis Colts||32||19.5|
|Shaun Phillips||Denver Broncos||31||10.0|
|Jared Allen||Minnesota Vikings||31||11.5|
|Jason Hatcher||Dallas Cowboys||31||11.0|
|Terrell Suggs||Baltimore Ravens||31||10.0|
One of the smartest things a player in Suggs' situation can do is trade off money for a roster spot. Despite their 8-8 finish to the 2013 season, the Ravens are a strong team just a year removed from a Super Bowl victory, and they boasted yearly postseason appearances from 2008 to 2012.
Suggs gets to help mentor his team's future crop of Pro Bowl defenders and remain in Baltimore, where wins come easier than losses. At the same time, this gives the Ravens more flexibility when it comes to their attempts to re-sign important starters who are about to hit free agency.
Extending Suggs' contract was both right and fair. Now, the Ravens don't have to scramble for a new starting-caliber pass-rusher, while Suggs doesn't have to worry about his future in the NFL.